Reaching out as the Mountains Abide

We just wanted to reach out and connect with our conservation community.

We’re doing what we can to continue the work of Sierra Watch – Saving Martis Valley and Keeping Squaw True – as much as our isolation allows. But we miss seeing you all in person, whether at our own events, on a chairlift, or out on the trails.

One social distancing tip we can offer: The Movie to Keep Squaw True is streaming online, and you can binge watch as many times as you like!

Squaw Valley, Fresh Snow, Tahoe Coronavirus, Squaw COVID-19

Pictured: Squaw Valley today

In the meantime, our mountains abide, under a blanket of snow.  And will be there for us when we emerge.  

North Tahoe SnowFest’s 4th Annual Wing Eating Contest, benefiting Keep Squaw True

Join Sierra Watch on Sunday, March 1st, for Fat Cat Bar & Grill’s Fourth Annual North Tahoe SnowFest Hot Wing Eating Contest, benefiting our work to Keep Squaw True! Event runs from 3pm to 5pm.

keep squaw true on parade

Pictured: “This is Tahoe’s measurement of the good times people have had,” Robb Gaffney, marching at past SnowFest Parade

So come join us as we watch the fastest eaters from Tahoe and beyond test their mettle against each other and Fat Cat’s spicy wings to become North Tahoe SnowFest 2020’s wing eating champion. We’ll be there raffling off Keep Squaw True gear, as well as a signed copy  the poster for G.N.A.R. The Movie.

Join us from 3 to 5pm! Fat Cat will be offering 30% off Bloody Marys and their signature wings to all spectators.

Sierra Watch staff will also be on hand with campaign updates.


The wing eating competition is open to all amateur eaters 18 years or older who are in good health. Registration is $30 to compete & is currently open — just drop by Fat Cat Bar & Grill in Tahoe City, day-of or in advance to register, open everyday for lunch and dinner!

The Contest
1. Each competitor will start with exactly thirty wings covered with sauce.
2. The contest will last exactly three (3) minutes.
3. The competitors will consume their allotted wings and place the eaten chicken wing bone back into the wing receptacle.
4. If a competitor finishes their allotted thirty wings before the contest is complete, they will be given an additional ten wings to consume.
5. Once the contest is complete, each competitor’s wing receptacle will be taken to be weighed by a Judge.
6. The winner will be determined by the total weight of wing meat eaten, measured by an official contest scale in pounds and ounces by the Executive Judge. In the event of a tie between competitors, there will be a 60 second “run off” to determine the winner.

North Tahoe SnowFest Wing Eating Champion Jeff Stoike

Pictured: Past North Tahoe SnowFest wing eating champion, Jeff Stoike

See you there!


“Maximum Potential Development” vs. Tahoe Mountain Values – Moonshine Ink covers Sierra Watch’s legal appeal over Squaw Valley

This month’s edition of Truckee’s Moonshine Ink provides an in-depth update on the back-and-forth over Squaw Valley in the Court of Appeals.

Would-be developer Alterra Mountain Company is arguing for what they call “maximum potential development.”

Sierra Watch is standing up for our shared mountain values – and state law.

And you can read it here:


moonshine ink


Sierra Watch’s second appeal against Alterra development proposal

By Becca Loux | Moonshine Ink

January 9, 2019

A contentious months-long written debate has finally concluded between Placer County, its board of supervisors, and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows versus local nonprofit Sierra Watch over development plans put forth by the resort.

The “conversation” consists of legal briefings that have gone back and forth during Sierra Watch’s second appeal of Placer County’s decision to approve development plans, and this time the mediator of that conversation is California’s Third Appellate District Court.

The campaign against the village development plans, dubbed the “Keep Squaw True” movement, and the legal battle led by Sierra Watch has been ongoing since Squaw Alpine (now owned by ski resort giant Alterra) first announced the project in 2011. On Nov. 15, 2016, the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved the project, after which Sierra Watch appealed the decision, filing complaints to the county’s superior court on two separate counts. 2018 saw rulings in favor of the 93.3-acre proposal in both cases, on the heels of years of meetings, hundreds of public comments, and many signed petitions.

The first of the two challenges to Squaw’s development by Sierra Watch was mostly on the grounds of violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Among other arguments, the group contends that increased traffic resulting from the project would threaten the clarity of Lake Tahoe, a natural region that is directly mentioned in CEQA itself (which calls the gem of the Sierra of “statewide, regional, or area-wide significance”).

Squaw Valley development, Keep Squaw True

SKY VIEW: Squaw Valley mixes natural beauty with man-made recreational features. Photo by Riley Bathurst

Sierra Watch also had previously filed a suit on the grounds that the Placer County board’s decision was announced without proper consideration of the Brown Act, a piece of transparency legislation sometimes nicknamed California’s “good government act.”

After the superior court ruled in favor of Squaw, Sierra Watch appealed again, as plaintiff and appellant, taking both counts to the state of California, and naming Placer County and its Board of Supervisors as well as developer Squaw Valley LLC as the defendants. The two parties are currently waiting for word that the court is ready to hear oral arguments and make a ruling, with no slated timeline on either decision.

“The length of the process is challenging,” Sierra Watch Executive Director Tom Mooers told Moonshine Ink. “Although [the waiting] also means that, hey, there’s another year where there’s no indoor water park in Squaw Valley. That’s good news in itself.”

For Ron Cohen, new COO and president of Squaw Alpine, the notion of fighting against specifics like indoor water parks or developing in Shirley Canyon (two aspects to the plan that have faced community backlash, encouraged by Sierra Watch’s messaging) distracts from the fact that the approved aspects represent maximum potential development, not a locked-in plan.

“What came out of that process was a set of entitlements,” Cohen explained, which “essentially recommend the largest extent to which as an owner you could legally have your property developed; they don’t require you to develop to that extent, they authorize you to develop.”

Cohen, who ran his own hospitality business in Yosemite and worked for Alterra-owned Mammoth Mountain resort, each for eight years, started his position at Squaw Alpine in April 2018 (in addition to a short legal stint working directly for Alterra). After Alterra formed and gained ownership of Squaw Alpine from former proprietary company KSL, they didn’t significantly alter the existing development plans. Cohen thinks it would be foolish to “go back” on those maximum permissions, because he fully intends to continue a process of community feedback to make sure they end up building “what’s right” for the mountain, within the set of parameters the county has allowed.

The approved plans include, on the village parcel, no more than 1,493 new residential units, an equipment yard, 9 acres of parking structures, and approximately 274,000 square feet for an entertainment park. The east parcel, also included within the approvals, could include dormitory-style employee housing, a parking structure, and 20,000 square feet of commercial space.

The future of Squaw Valley lies with the state’s court of appeals. As the case gets prepped to be heard, a long-form written “conversation” went back and forth between the parties. The following are excerpts from the briefs by the opposing legal teams, which highlight what’s at stake.

On Environmental Grounds: Briefs From Lawsuit No. 1

Originally, Placer County’s decision that Squaw Alpine’s development plans meet CEQA requirements was based on a rejection of the notion that Squaw Valley, situated just outside the official borders of the Tahoe Basin, has a significant impact on Lake Tahoe clarity. Sierra Watch’s main initial argument was based on the grand lake, with Mooers telling Moonshine that “this development threatens everything we love about Squaw Valley and the Tahoe Sierra.”

Sierra Watch’s appeal to this decision began with their appellant opening brief, which focused on what they argue was the county’s failure to address concerns laid out in CEQA primarily about Tahoe clarity and preservation, fire evacuation safety, and traffic increase. The opening brief reads, in part:

Despite the public outcry … the Board of Supervisors … voted to approve it and certify the defective EIR. Tellingly, the Supervisor representing Squaw Valley and the Tahoe area voted to deny the Project and reject the EIR.

… Located just outside the Lake Tahoe Basin, the development would add nearly 24,000 vehicle-miles traveled (“VMT”) per day to the Basin. This is more than 100 times the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s (“TRPA”) threshold of significance (200 VMT). All that traffic would add to the pollution and nutrients that are steadily depriving Lake Tahoe of its clarity.

… In Squaw Valley, there is only one way out — Squaw Valley Road. If the proposed high-rises and indoor waterpark are built and occupied, it could take an estimated 10 hours and 40 minutes just to exit the Valley on the busiest weekends.

Placer and Squaw’s response focuses on backing up the initial findings of the EIR as well as working to refute what their team deems as the “appellant’s hyperbolic adverbs and adjectives [that] distort the record.”

In part, here is the opposition response from the Placer and Squaw Alpine camp:

Most development will occur on a paved parking lot. … Over 36 acres of open space — compared to 20 acres under the SVGPLUO [originally adopted development standards] — is preserved.… The Project is located miles outside the Tahoe Basin … Its sole impact is that some visitors will — like anyone in the region — visit the Tahoe Basin.

In response to visual encroachment and mass of scale concerns, the brief also reminded the court that the project’s scale has been significantly reduced; for example, it states that the developer team “steadily reduced the Project from 3,187 bedrooms to the approved 1,493 bedrooms.”

As for the fire safety issues, Squaw took issue with Sierra Watch’s assessment that utilizing the new development as a “shelter-in-place” solution, a system of wildfire or other disaster relief involving seeking refuge where one is, isn’t realistic:

Appellant scoffs at shelter-in-place as “cryptic” and ineffective, but cites no expert evidence supporting this view. … In fact, shelter-in-place at the Village has long been part of SVFD’s emergency planning.

Then, Sierra Watch’s final rebuttal on the lawsuit challenging the validity of the EIR and the project’s ability to meet CEQA requirements ends the exchange swinging. Its opening states:

The opposition brief … cannot credibly explain the glaring omissions in the Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”). So Respondents engage in diversionary tactics. They misuse evidence in the administrative record, setting forth voluminous record citations that, upon examination, have little or no relevance to appellant’s actual claims.

Substantively, Sierra Watch’s final reply brief focuses much of its efforts on the Lake Tahoe clarity and preservation argument; in fact, a third of the organization’s 78-page document focuses on the lake:

As a factual matter, it is undisputed that the Project would generate 1,353 car trips and 23,842 vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) in a single day to the Tahoe Basin. As appellant explained, scientists agree that such vehicle travel results in the deposition of pollutants and finely-crushed road sediment into Lake Tahoe, threatening its water quality and clarity. Respondents do not contest this science.

On fire, the brief states,

Respondents attempt to downplay the project’s fire risk, claiming it is not as bad as what the designation as a “very high fire hazard severity zone … suggests.”

Squaw Valley development, Shirley Canyon, Keep Squaw True, Alterra Mountain Company, KSL Capital Partners

SHIRLEY CANYON, a popular hiking spot in the summer, may see development at its trailhead. Under the current permissions (which are being appealed by the Sierra Watch to the state courts), this rendering shows the scale possible. Image courtesy Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Brown v. Transparency: Briefs From Lawsuit No. 2

The second appeal Sierra Watch filed questions the process: The nonprofit is claiming that there were violations of the Brown Act, passed in 1953, which is meant to ensure public involvement in government decision-making.

Specifically, the Brown Act requires that any governing body “post an agenda containing a brief general description of each item of business to be transacted or discussed at the meeting,” and that key documents must be made “available for public inspection.”

In Placer County’s original public comment period for the Squaw development, then-attorney general Kamala Harris submitted a 15-page statement alleging that the county’s EIR wasn’t sufficient. Then days before the planning commission voted 4-2 on Aug. 11, 2016 to recommend the project’s approval to the board of supervisors, her office retracted the opinion, causing concern of a deal from Sierra Watch and others. (See Two Major Development Projects, One Planning Commision, Two Very Different Votes and Squaw’s Future Decided for context about the state’s involvement in the 2016 Placer decision).

Mooers alleges that before the November 2016 hearings by the Placer County Board of Supervisors “a last-minute deal … (was) cut with the opposition, the state attorney general and with the developer, KSL at the time, and sprung … on the public in a way that violated California’s good government law.”

Mooers explained that the Brown Act requires decision-making bodies “to operate in the sunshine,” he said, by making any documents available to them also accessible to the public.

Sierra Watch’s opening brief on this suit claims,

The county failed to alert the public that the Board would consider approving, in conjunction with the Project, an eleventh-hour deal concerning an issue of great public interest that County staff had hastily negotiated in secret with the project applicant … and the Office of the California Attorney General.

Mooers told Moonshine Ink the board kept relevant documents at the time in a “file cabinet in a locked office after-hours the night before the hearing,” which he doesn’t consider to be sufficiently transparent via the Brown Act. “They stood up in court saying that that was sharing with the public even though the public didn’t know about it and had no access to it,” Mooers continued.

Cohen countered, upholding the court’s decision by explaining to Moonshine that “there is no evidence to support the Sierra Watch’s allegations. The Brown Act [suit] isn’t really about the Brown Act; [it’s] about trying to find a way to block the development.”

Cohen’s legal team, in their response brief, refutes Sierra Watch’s claim of a “‘deal’ with the Attorney General to avoid litigation … there was no need to inform the public of such a nonexistent deal,” and goes on to allege that relevant documents were posted for the public 72 hours in advance of the 2016 hearing.

So, What Now?

In the end, Cohen doesn’t see as much conflict between his and Mooers’ priorities as the legal battle would have you believe.

“What you build ultimately needs to reflect what will work for the place, for the market, for the skiers, for the community. If you don’t get that mix right, the fact that you got it entitled isn’t going to make it successful,” he told Moonshine Ink. Any specific project will have to go through the approval process, and Cohen has expressed interest in seeking ample community feedback before committing to any part of the plan.

Cohen said he’s certain that one thing they need at the resort is more hotel rooms, which he says is currently an underserved element. Yet, “we won’t build something until we’ve had a very thorough discussion with our people and we’ve got a really good idea of what our people want,” Cohen said.

Mooers focuses his own fight on the long haul, rather than the day-to-day or even year-to-year of legal battles and regulatory development blocking strategies. Wading through the long bureaucratic process of suits and appeals, public comment, and building campaign momentum year-after-year, Mooers sees a light at the end of his fight’s tunnel. “We haven’t lost Squaw Valley to irresponsible development. But if we were to lose or give up then it’s truly over and it’s over forever,” Mooers told Moonshine.

Welcoming Winter Social to Keep Squaw True – Friday, Dec. 13

PLEASE NOTE: Due to weather, we will be moving the event inside! See you all there.

Winter is here!

Help Sierra Watch welcome the snow with our friends at California 89 in Downtown Truckee on Friday, December 13.

Spend time with folks who care about the future of the entire North Lake Tahoe/Truckee Region; watch clips from The Movie to Keep Squaw True; and get the latest update from Sierra Watch staff.

Squaw Valley, Welcoming Winter Social, Truckee CA

First 30 people to show up will receive gift bags from California 89 and more! Click here to RSVP to the Facebook event.


Friday December 13, 2019

4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

California 89 (in Downtown Truckee)

10156 Donner Pass Rd., Truckee, CA 96161

Village at Squaw Valley, Granite Chief, Keep Squaw True, Squaw Valley Development

Snacks and drinks – cookies and hot cocoa, adult libations

Start your holiday shopping with awesome gift ideas from California 89 – so much more than a Sierra highway, it’s a way of like!

This event will also coincide with Festive Fridays hosted by local shops in conjunction with the Truckee Downtown Merchant Associations!

Support a great cause: The event is a great opportunity to help Keep Squaw True – and gain further inspiration to defend our Sierra values from Alterra Mountain Company’s reckless development plans for Tahoe’s Squaw Valley.

For any questions regarding the event, contact Sierra Watch Field Manager, Chase Schweitzer at








Critics: Tahoe resort project would hamper fire evacuations

Critics: Tahoe resort project would hamper fire evacuations

By Scott Sonner | AP 

November 22, 2019 – First published by the Associated Press, re-published by the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Sacramento Bee, and other news outlets. 

OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — Conservationists trying to block expansion of the Lake Tahoe ski resort that hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics say the developer is trying to hide the impacts of the project on the pristine mountain environment.

In legal action, the group Sierra Watch also cited a dramatic traffic increase that could cause dangerous delays during a wildfire evacuation of Squaw Valley in California.

Squaw Valley, Sierra Watch, Tahoe Traffic, Tahoe Fire, Alterra Mountain Company

This Dec. 16, 2011, file photo, shows the base village at Squaw Valley in Olympic Valley, Calif. Conservationists trying to block expansion of the Lake Tahoe ski resort that hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics say the developer is trying to hide the environmental impacts of a dramatic traffic increase that could also cause dangerous delays during a Tahoe fire evacuation. Sierra Watch says it’s a “massive expansion” in a “very high fire hazard severity zone” with an extremely congested escape route. (Tim Dunn/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP,File) (Associated Press)

Tom Mooers, head of the group suing the resort and its Denver-based owner, Alterra Mountain Co., says it would take nearly 11 hours to evacuate via the single access road during a wildfire.

Sierra Watch calls it a “very high fire hazard severity zone” with an extremely congested escape route.

The group has appealed a court ruling that upheld approval of the project by Placer County, which concluded any potential harm could be offset. The county’s environmental review concluded the expansion would add an average of 1,353 daily car trips and 2,800 peak-day trips.

Sierra Watch says most impacts on noise, water and air quality would result from increased traffic on a state highway through a narrow river canyon connecting Interstate 80 at Truckee to Lake Tahoe and on an access road to the resort in Olympic Valley.

“Scientists agree such vehicle travel results in the deposition of pollutants and finely crushed sediment into Lake Tahoe, threatening its water quality and clarity,” Sierra Watch lawyers said.

Squaw Valley officials say they worked hard to appease critics before Placer County approved the expansion in 2016. They said they scaled back the initial plan for 3,554 bedrooms to 1,493

Lawyers for Squaw Valley say 2.9 hours are currently needed to evacuate the area and that could grow to 5 to 6.5 hours under most scenarios.

The legal action by Sierra Watch says developers are attempting to downplay concerns about gridlock by emphasizing an emergency response plan that partly relies on a shelter-in-place strategy.

“Shelter-in-place is not an effective public safety plan. It’s what you do when you can’t get out,” Mooers said. “That’s not planning for disaster; that’s planning a disaster.”

Squaw Valley contends that opponents have exaggerated the area’s designation as a high fire severity zone and noted the evacuation area is mostly a paved parking lot long identified by local fire officials as one of the safest places to seek refuge.

“Surrounding terrain consists mainly of ski runs and bare rocks,” a company court filing said about fire danger.

Sierra Watch calls that “revisionist geography,” pointing to developer documents stating the project is surrounded by forest.

“The actual risk … is not what this designation suggests,” the company says in court documents. “Appellant scoffs at shelter-in-place as `cryptic’ and ineffective but cites no expert evidence supporting this view.”

The developer says most traffic congestion occurs in winter — “when skiers are visiting the site, inclement weather disrupts traffic, and, to state the obvious, wildland fire risk is zero.”

Squaw Valley Fire Chief Pete Bansen said the few fires that have occurred over the years were small and quickly extinguished. He said mass Tahoe fire evacuation is “very, very, very unlikely.”

A 2014 blaze came within six miles of the valley and showed the system works, Bansen said.

Sierra Watch pointed out, however, that a triathlon was cancelled several minutes before start time due to poor air quality.

“This incident demonstrates the difficulty in timely extracting large numbers of people from the project area in an emergency,” the group said.


Learn more by watching this clip from The Movie to Keep Squaw True

Key term: Tahoe fire evacuation

Stand with Sierra Watch – Every Month of the Year

Thanks for being a part of Sierra Watch and our ongoing work to defend our favorite mountain places.

Everything we do depends on the hundreds of individuals and families who stand with us to protect our Sierra. And we’re asking you to consider making a monthly contribution to our shared commitment.

Simply put, Sierra Watch focuses our love of places like Martis Valley, Donner Summit, and Squaw Valley into strategic, disciplined, and effective campaigns.

Keep Squaw True, Squaw Valley, KSL Capital Partners

It’s a little bit like David standing up to Goliath. Except that there is more than one Goliath – behemoths of private equity and speculative real estate, hell-bent on reckless development. 

But, most important, we are thousands of Davids. And, together, we are an unstoppable force for conservation.

You can invest in our shared effort by clicking here and making a monthly contribution to Sierra Watch:

One of our supporters tells me, “Every month, I get an email saying I’ve made another contribution of $20, and I feel like I’m doing my part.”

That kind of individual commitment is what it takes to stand up to the Goliaths – and defend our mountains.

Placer County Board of Supervisors, Squaw Valley, Alterra Mountain Company

So whether you are a first time donor, a monthly donor, or an annual donor, you’re a part of the proud history of conservation in the Sierra. And we appreciate your support.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly with any questions or comments. You can reach me by phone at (530) 265-2849 ext. 200 or by email at


Tom Mooers, Executive Director


Keeping Squaw True: Making our Case in the Court of Appeals

Sierra Watch submitted the final brief to the Third District Court Appeals in our ongoing effort to overturn illegal development proposals in Tahoe’s Squaw Valley.

Our brief effectively counters the arguments laid out by Alterra Mountain Company and Placer County in their latest missive to the court and, more importantly, expertly reaffirms the fact that 2016 approvals violated state law.

Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, Squaw development

The entire document is available online – and it’s a pretty good read.

But, if you’re not up to digesting the full 78 pages, we offer a sample of two arguments Alterra is making in pursuit of their reckless development proposal.

Traffic? What traffic?

In their brief, Alterra actually claims that both Squaw Valley Road and Highway 89 “flow freely 99% of time.” That’s right. No problem. 

So every time you are stuck somewhere between Tahoe City and Truckee, whether it’s a powder day or a holiday or just a random Tuesdas—you’re somehow just that unlucky 1%.

Squaw Valley traffic, Tahoe Traffic

Alterra’s assertion would be funny if traffic in Tahoe was not such a direct threat to our quality of life. Or in the event of wildfire, to life itself.

Forest? What forest?

Speaking of wildfire, Alterra downplays the real risk of wildfire by claiming Squaw Valley is surrounded by “ski runs and bare rocks.”

As the Sierra Watch brief points out, this contradicts their own planning documents, which correctly point out, “The project site is situated in the Sierra Nevada, surrounded by forest land.”

A fact also confirmed by the view from Shirley Canyon:

Shirley Canyon, tahoe fire, squaw valley fire, california fire

 Fire danger, just one of the many reasons why we are Keeping Squaw True!

This, too, could be funny. If it wasn’t part of Placer County’s dangerous claim that a ten-hour evacuation time in the event of wildfire is, somehow, “insignificant.”

And Alterra’s irresponsible assertion that their development would be a “safer placer to shelter in place.”

“Shelter in place” is not an effective public safety plan. It’s what you do when you can’t get out.

These two examples – in the face of traffic and fire danger – fit a broad pattern of dismissiveness and denial on the part of both Placer County and Alterra Mountain Company.

Tahoe deserves better.

To learn more about Sierra Watch and our work to secure safe and responsible planning for Squaw Valley and the Tahoe Sierra, visit – and check out The Movie to Keep Squaw True.


State of Sierra Watch – 2019

Each fall we check in on another year of Sierra Watch and our work to protect our favorite places in the Sierra Nevada from irresponsible development.

So far, 2019 could be summarized by: one terrific movie, three legal briefs, more than 400 donors, and a massive challenge.

One Terrific Movie

The first thing I often ask people these days is, “Have you seen the movie?!?”

I mean The Movie to Keep Squaw True.

If your answer is, “No, not yet,” I suggest you set aside an hour, pop some popcorn, and stream it at

It tells the epic story of how we – together – are stopping reckless developers from turning one of our favorite Tahoe mountains into a Vegas-style amusement park.

If you’re a Squaw skier, it’s must-see streaming. If you love the Sierra – and Tahoe in particular, there’s something in it for you, too.

The film not only covers some of the action and characters unique to Squaw; it conveys deeper, timeless truths about our work and the values that – together – we stand up to defend.

Piedmont Theatre

The Movie to Keep Squaw True playing at Oakland’s Piedmont Theatre.

We took it on tour through the first half of 2019, firing up audiences in the Rockies and Reno, in Tahoe and Truckee, and down in Oakland and San Francisco. And it’s been an incredibly effective way to let people know about what’s at stake in Tahoe and recruit them into our growing movement to Keep Squaw True.

Three legal briefs

All that stands between both Martis Valley and Squaw Valley and irresponsible development is Sierra Watch – and our litigation to overturn illegal development approvals.

This year, we’ve completed our briefing in the Martis Valley West appeal and submitted our opening briefs in the Squaw Valley challenges.

Although not quite as entertaining as The Movie to Keep Squaw True, I actually recommend reading them. Turns out good lawyers are great writers. And our briefs in each case spell out clear, compelling arguments, backed by state law and court precedent.

For example, the two development proposals would add more than 7,000 new daily car trips to North Tahoe traffic. But Placer County officials largely ignored what all that development would mean to our roads – whether on any given weekend in the summer or during evacuation from a catastrophic wildfire – as well as downplaying the development’s impact on the lake itself.

You can find our case spelled out below.

Squaw Valley – California Environmental Quality Act Suit:

· July 3 – Sierra Watch Opening Brief
· Sep. 23 – Opposition Reply Brief
· Oct. 19 – Sierra Watch Reply Brief

Squaw Valley – Brown Act Suit:

· July 17 – Sierra Watch Opening Brief
· Sep. 27 – Opposition Reply Brief

Martis Valley West – CEQA Suit:

· Oct. 29, 2018 – Sierra Watch Opening Brief
· Feb. 21, 2019 – Opposition Opening Brief
· May 9, 2019 – Sierra Watch Reply Brief
· June 7, 2019 – Opposition Reply Brief

Our case for Tahoe, spelled out in black and white.

And if you’re really into this stuff, you can read the developers’ responses and see how they dodge and dissemble, pretending that pollution from more traffic in the Tahoe Basin is no threat to the lake. That, somehow, people stuck in their cars on Squaw Valley Road for ten hours trying to evacuate from a wildfire “would not be exposed to a significant risk.”

The hard work of legal research, brief-writing, and courtroom strategy might not be very cinematic. But it’s absolutely critical to our shared commitment to defend Martis, Squaw, and Tahoe.

And we’re confident that all that work will eventually compel developers and decision-makers to sit down to come up with responsible, collaborative planning for the future of our mountains.

415 Total Donors

Everything we do here at Sierra Watch – from legal briefs to bumper stickers – depends on the hundreds of individuals and families who stand with us to protect our favorite places.

Simply put, Sierra Watch combines our shared commitment to our mountains and shapes it into strategic, disciplined, and effective campaigns. 

Robb Gaffney, Scott Gaffney

The Gaffney Family – some of our Sierra Watch supporters.

So far this year, more than 400 of you have jumped in with donations. Each contribution both fuels and inspires our ongoing work, leveraging each individual donation into a shared investment. So: thank you!

A Massive Challenge

That combined commitment is what helps us overcome our biggest challenge: maintaining the capacity to sustain the effort.

In case you haven’t noticed, this stuff goes on for a long, long time. 

So the great challenge in 2019 – as it will be in the months and years ahead – is to keep at it. To slack off for one month is to lose forever.

We know it’s a lot to ask: years of commitment. At times when, especially in the absence of public hearings and news coverage, the proposed development projects are not so salient. 

And the conflict is draining. Most of us do not go to the mountains to seek conflict. But, when those mountains are at risk, the conflict finds us anyway. To turn from it would be to turn from the values that bring us to the mountains in the first place.

The mountains are calling, to turn a phrase, and we must keep going.

Here’s to a beautiful fall in our Sierra and plenty of snow this winter – and ongoing success in the months and years ahead!

 – Tom Mooers
   Executive Director
   Sierra Watch

Next week: Keep Squaw True Community Update in Squaw Valley—Sept. 18

Next week, join Sierra Watch for our Keep Squaw True Community Update in Squaw Valley:

Wednesday, September 18

6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Squaw Valley Public Service District Meeting Room

You’ve seen The Movie to Keep Squaw True; now come get the update!

squaw valley community

Pictured: Keep Squaw True supporters in Truckee, CA

Sierra Watch Executive Director Tom Mooers will review Alterra Mountain Company’s current development proposals and what they would mean to Squaw Valley and the Tahoe-Truckee Region.

We’ll also provide an update on the grassroots campaign to Keep Squaw True, including a summary of our two legal challenges against Placer County’s illegal approvals.

Background: Ski resort conglomerate Alterra Mountain Company proposes to re-make Squaw Valley and North Tahoe with development that would include a series of high-rise condo hotels and a 90,000 square-foot indoor waterpark—as wide as a Walmart and nearly three times as tall. 

The project would take 25 years to construct, add thousands of car trips to Tahoe’s crowded roads, threaten the lake’s famed clarity—and put public safety at risk. In the event of wildfire, it would take more than ten hours to evacuate Squaw Valley.

In response, Sierra Watch launched the campaign to Keep Squaw True, recruiting thousands of volunteers in a growing grassroots movement. Learn more by watching the movie:

To reserve a seat or learn more about the Keep Squaw True Community Update, contact Sierra Watch Field Manager, Chase Schweitzer, at This is a fully-accessible event, drop-ins welcome!


Keep Squaw True Community Update in Squaw Valley—Sept. 18

You’ve seen the movie; come get an update!

Now that we’ve released The Movie to Keep Squaw True to streaming, we’re hosting a Keep Squaw True Community Update on Wednesday, Sept. 18, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Squaw Valley Public Utility District Meeting Room.

And you’re invited!

Sierra Watch Executive Director Tom Mooers will help review Alterra Mountain Company’s current development proposals and what they would mean to Squaw Valley and the Tahoe-Truckee Region.

We’ll also provide an update on the grassroots campaign to Keep Squaw True, including a summary of our two legal challenges against Placer County’s illegal approvals.

squaw valley community

Pictured: Keeping Squaw True in Tahoe City

Background: Ski resort conglomerate Alterra Mountain Company proposes to re-make Squaw Valley and North Tahoe with development that would include a series of high-rise condo hotels and a 90,000 square-foot indoor waterpark—as wide as a Walmart and nearly three times as tall. 

The project would take 25 years to construct, add thousands of car trips to Tahoe’s crowded roads, threaten the lake’s famed clarity—and put public safety at risk.  In the event of wildfire, it would take more than ten hours to evacuate Squaw Valley.

In response, Sierra Watch launched the campaign to Keep Squaw True, recruiting thousands of volunteers in a growing grassroots movement. Learn more by watching the movie:

To reserve a seat or learn more about the Keep Squaw True Community Update, contact Sierra Watch Field Manager, Chase Schweitzer, at This is a fully-accessible event, drop-ins welcome!squaw movie